Hedonic Treadmill

What is the hedonic treadmill?

The hedonic treadmill is a concept in psychology that describes the tendency of humans to return to a relatively stable level of happiness or subjective well-being, despite major positive or negative events or changes in their lives. It suggests that our levels of happiness are relatively resistant to long-term changes in our circumstances.

According to the theory, when positive events or circumstances occur, such as getting a promotion, buying a new car, or going on a vacation, our happiness temporarily increases. However, over time, we adapt to these changes, and the initial boost in happiness diminishes. Similarly, when negative events or circumstances occur, such as losing a job or experiencing a breakup, our happiness temporarily decreases. Yet, as time passes, we adjust to these new circumstances, and our happiness gradually returns to its baseline level.

The hedonic treadmill suggests that people have a set point for happiness, which acts as a reference level. Regardless of positive or negative events, individuals tend to return to this set point over time. This set point is believed to be influenced by genetic factors, personality traits, and learned behaviors.

The concept of the hedonic treadmill has important implications for understanding happiness and well-being. It suggests that the pursuit of external circumstances or material possessions alone may not lead to long-term happiness. Instead, it highlights the importance of focusing on internal factors, such as personal growth, cultivating positive relationships, and practicing gratitude and mindfulness, as ways to sustain happiness and well-being.